Netflix's newest installment in their Black Mirror anthology, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, has been a resounding success.
The choose-your-own-adventure style story depicts the journey of computer programmer Stephan Butler as he works to create a computer game of the same style.
Users choose between multiple options to direct the story, and the outcome changes depending on those choices.
As it turns out, Netflix was tracking and collecting this data.
London-based researcher Michael Veale made a GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) request to Netflix asking that they send him the data gathered from his account. The result was a fascinating look at how and what data was being collected.
He shared this result on twitter with explanations as to what the info meant.
Remember everyone quickly speculating whether Black Mirror: Bandersnatch was a data mining experiment. I used my GD… https://t.co/3WRqbUEYhp— Michael Veale (@Michael Veale)1549929771.0
Netflix claim they only use individual choices to inform which video segments to show, although they do learn from… https://t.co/dMxTlJsXgv— Michael Veale (@Michael Veale)1549929771.0
You can also get a copy of all the choices you have made to date, which Netflix does store (I did not ask for how l… https://t.co/q8ugVaQfPY— Michael Veale (@Michael Veale)1549929771.0
... and a .csv file with the choices you have made, when you made them, the platform you made them on and whether y… https://t.co/5PUv1s9Wyw— Michael Veale (@Michael Veale)1549929772.0
Interestingly, the 7 pg key looks pretty exhaustive. It would be hard to hide a deep easter egg (& I don't see an o… https://t.co/wyEwqdV6qI— Michael Veale (@Michael Veale)1549929773.0
I asked a further question they are still processing about a/b testing groups that they are still working on. For t… https://t.co/Dpv5JcgC1z— Michael Veale (@Michael Veale)1549929773.0
User reactions were varied.
Some thought it was fitting that Netflix was gathering data from Bandersnatch.
@mikarv This is so #BlackMirror that #Bandersnatch would be a #datamining experiment. https://t.co/65ZsJ0VSds— Ruth, Ph.D. (@Ruth, Ph.D.)1550003535.0
One user had an unexpected reason for wanting to know what people chose.
@mikarv This might seem trivial, but I really want to know how Netflix customers responded so I might understand wh… https://t.co/qeFvRxSilL— 👻Daniel Equailty Kasper (@👻Daniel Equailty Kasper)1549977228.0
Most people were thankful to Veale for requesting and compiling the information.
@mikarv Great thread. Nice to hear about @netflix doing the hard work of GDPR compliance.— Trevor Hughes (@Trevor Hughes)1549976834.0
@mikarv This is so fascinating and you are ever so clever. Thank you for sharing this good look under the hood.— Mycroft Holmes (@Mycroft Holmes)1549969573.0
@mikarv Nice work. Thanks for the thread. :)— Jennifer Baker (@Jennifer Baker)1549984409.0
One user was planning to use the thread and information as a teaching aid.
@mikarv Thanks Michael! Will show this thread in my class (not asking for your permission :p )— Edina Harbinja (@Edina Harbinja)1550063444.0
The GDPR is allowing us to learn more about what data companies are gathering from us, and how they're using it.
How fitting that the data we're learning about this from is a Black Mirror film.